How to Tack Up Your Horse (A Guide for English Riders)

by Michelle Drum July 16, 2021 4 min read

How to Tack Up Your Horse (A Guide for English Riders)

There’s a lot of new things to learn when you first start working with horses. You’ll learn how to care for your horsewhat to feed, and how to ride. One of those fundamentals is learning how to tack up a horse. This English rider’s guide for tacking up your horse will explain the process and walk you through each step.

What is Tacking a Horse?

Tack is a term used to describe horse riding equipment. It includes everything placed on your horse, including the bridlesaddlesaddle padsstirrups, and other items. When you tack your horse, you are getting him ready to ride by properly placing all of the necessary equipment to ensure safety and comfort for both of you. 

Before you tack a horse, you’ll want to make sure you have all of the required equipment and understand how (and where) to use everything. This horse riding equipment list walks through everything you’ll need to ride your horse. In particular, you’ll want to know how to measure for an English saddlehow to put together an English bridle, and how to choose an English horse bit

7 Steps for Tacking Up a Horse for English Riding

Once you have the equipment you need for your horse, you’re ready to learn the process of tacking your horse to ride. We’ll break it down for you in seven easy steps.

1. Secure Your Horse

Your first step is to tie up your horse to make sure he stays in place, keeping you safe. You can do this by placing a halter on your horse and attaching cross ties to it. Alternatively, you can tie your horse to a post. A few tips:

  • Use slip knots or quick-release snaps or clasps. If your horse gets caught in the rope, this enables you to free him quickly and easily.  Sometimes you’ll see the quick release snap on the part that attaches to the wall or the metal clasp that attaches to the halter if you use cross ties.
  • Don’t use your horse’s bridle to secure him. You’ll place that on the horse before you put the saddle on.

2. Groom Your Horse

You should always groom your horse before and after riding. Don’t skip the pre-ride grooming — you shouldn’t put a saddle on a dirty horse as the dirt, loose hair, and sweat can irritate your horse and cause saddle sores. This grooming includes brushing your horse and picking out his hooves with a hoof pick. It’s not as extensive as the grooming you’ll do for a competition, but you’ll follow many of the same steps. 

As you groom your horse, check for any issues like lumps, swelling, and heat that may indicate your horse isn’t fit to ride. Grooming is essential, but it’s also a great opportunity to ensure safety for you and your horse. Be careful when picking your horse’s hooves to avoid being kicked. Hoof care is one of the most important things you can do for your horse. Check for swelling or injury, and make sure the shoes aren’t loose.

3. Ready Your Tack

Before you start tacking your horse, collect all of the equipment so you have it close by and easy to access. You’ll want to check the condition to be sure it’s in good shape for your ride. Put the girth that goes on the far side of the horse on top of the saddle so it doesn’t hit him when you place the saddle. (Hint: you’ll place the saddle on your horse on the same side you mount him). Next, “run up” your stirrups, sliding them up the leather strap and putting the leather through the middle of the stirrup to keep them out of the way until you are ready to mount your horse. 

4. Saddle Your Horse

Place the saddle pad on your horse. The front of the pad should be just in front of your horse’s withers (where the top of the shoulder meets the neck). Then slide the pad back into place at the front of the withers, so the hair rests properly.  Next, place the saddle gently on top of the saddle pad. Want more information on saddling up a horse? This detailed step-by-step guide walks you through the process of saddling up a horse.

5. Fasten the Girth

The girth is a strap that holds the saddle securely in place. Attach the girth to the girth billets, starting with the right and then going to the other side. Securely fasten the girth once it’s attached on both sides. It should be behind your horse’s front legs, with a small gap between the elbow and the girth. You should be able to place a hand between your horse and the girth if it’s properly fitted.

6. Place the Bit, Bridle, and Reins

Untie your horse and place the reins over your horse’s head to maintain control if needed. Place the bit in your horse’s mouth, putting a finger on each side of it and gently pushing it in. Lastly, carefully place the bridle over your horse’s head. The crown piece goes over the horse’s ears before you buckle the throat latch. You should be able to fit four fingers between your horse and the throat latch and 2-to-3 under the noseband.

7. Adjust Your Stirrups

Before you mount your horse, walk him a few steps to check your saddle is secured, the fit of the bridle, and be sure that the reins aren’t crossed. Check the girth to make sure it’s properly fitted as well. Once you’ve checked and made any necessary adjustments, drop your stirrups into the proper position and you’re ready to mount your horse.

Now You’re Ready to Ride

Tacking up your horse is one of the essential skills of horse ownership. Get it wrong, and you can cause injury to yourself or your horse. But with this step-by-step process, you can ensure you’re completing the proper steps and know what to look out for when you do. Now, head on out, and have a great ride!


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